Who are you and what is mountainFLOW?
My name is Peter Arlein and I'm the Founder and CEO of mountainFLOW. mountainFLOW is a leading manufacturer of high-performance, plant-based bike maintenance products.
Peter Arlein wants his products clean and his face dirty.
How did the idea for mountainFLOW come about? What's the company's origin story?
In 2016, mountainFLOW started as an eco-friendly ski wax company. We realized that nearly all of the ski wax on the market was made from petroleum and all of that wax was being shed directly into the snowpack and then into the watershed. mountainFLOW developed a patented wax formula that was biodegradable, non-toxic and made entirely from plants. Our wax is now being used by some of the best skiers and snowboarders in the world, including World Cup Champions and Olympic medalists.
In 2020, mountainFLOW recognized a similar opportunity in the bike industry. The large majority of bike lubricants originate from the automotive industry and are made from petroleum. Similar to ski wax, bike lube, whether during application, riding, or cleaning, is introduced directly into the environment. mountainFLOW has developed a full suite of high-performance bike maintenance products including lube, wash, and grease that are biodegradable, non-toxic, and made from plants.
Why did you see the need in the outdoor industry for eco-friendly products like the ones you're making?
The use of petroleum-based bike lubricant is a classic micro-pollution problem. On an individual basis, each rider is putting a very small amount of lubricant into the environment. However, in aggregate, there are literally tons of petroleum oils introduced into our favorite mountain playgrounds every year. Furthermore, some of the popular additives, such as PTFE, are toxic and bioaccumulative - meaning that once in the environment, they are there forever and will never break down.
We saw an opportunity to create a line of products that offered the same level of performance without any of the negative environmental impacts. As consumers we should be asking more of our outdoor industry brands. The technology is now available to have performance and sustainability and we should demand both.
What about the company are you most proud of?
I'm really proud of our determination/stubbornness to only release products that meet our standards of performance and sustainability. Our team is composed of passionate bikers and skiers and we need to be able to stand behind all of our products 110%. It is now en vogue for every brand, whether bike lube or ski wax, to offer at least one token eco-friendly product, while 99% of the product line is still made from petroleum and/or PTFE. mountainFLOW does the opposite - 100% of our products are sustainable and non-toxic. As such, we have become experts in eco-friendly product development and feel that our products can rival the performance of anything else on the market.
I've noticed that you put quite a bit of focus on developing sustainable packaging, not just the products themselves. Could you tell me a bit more about that?
We strive to offer the most sustainable packaging on the market. It feels disingenuous to create a non-petroleum bike lube and then just throw it into a regular plastic bottle. All of our bike lube bottles are made from 100% Post-Consumer Recycled plastic.
Furthermore, our Bike Wash + Degreaser is packaged in a cardboard bottle with a thin plastic liner. This package uses 70% less plastic than a traditional plastic bottle.
Sourcing sustainable packaging is easier than you would think and oftentimes results in a new and interesting look which can really help the product to stand out on the shelf.
The Bike Wash + Degreaser comes in a cardboard bottle that's thinly lined with plastic.
It seems like one of the most effective ways to carve your niche in the bike world would be through collaboration with other companies, and I think you've been doing a bit of that. Is that correct? Could you tell me a bit more about that?
We have just launched our Bike Private Label program and are already working with a handful of established bike brands. These partnerships have a broad range of cooperation... some brands are using our products on their demo bikes so that their staff is not exposed to the toxins present in traditional bike lube and other brands have opted into a full suite of white-labeled products. To see the confidence that other bike brands have in our products is really rad. We are stoked on the early traction of this program and have a few big partnerships coming down the pike, so stay tuned.
The Private Label collabs on the ski side of the business have been pretty robust. We've partnered with The North Face, Nordica, POW (Protect Our Winters), Winter Wildlands Alliances, National Ski Patrol, WNDR Alpine, and a bunch more. Private Labeling is a fairly unique offering in both the ski and bike worlds and we are stoked to be able to offer it.
Why haven't more companies started focusing on eco-friendly bike maintenance products?
Well, it's not easy to create a high-performance and eco-friendly product. Petroleum-based lubricants are readily available and relatively inexpensive. These products have been around for decades and have been very successful, thus it is often easier to stay the course. While these products still dominate the market, we are seeing the beginnings of a sea change. Consumers are asking more of their favorite bike brands. Moving forward, I think that we will see a greater selection of eco-friendly bike maintenance products on the market.
What are the challenges of starting a small commodity brand within the bike (and ski) industry?
You said it right in the question - "commodity". We are building a brand around a product that is generally seen as a commodity. We have a unique brand story and are doing something different from the mainstream. This type of endeavor takes time. There's also an educational component that comes along with our product - how is mountainFLOW different? Why is it important to use an eco-friendly bike lube? Does it even work?
We have been on the road all spring and summer. Chatting with folks about mountainFLOW and, more importantly, lubing their chains so they can experience the product for themselves. Once people learn more about traditional lubricants and realize that there are now more sustainable alternatives, they are pretty quick to rally behind the product.
What changes would you like to see around sustainability in the bike industry in the future?
We have proven that sustainable and high-performance do not have to be mutually exclusive. We would love to see more brands get on board with this ethos.
What would you like to see mountainFLOW achieve in the future?
mountainFLOW is just getting started. In just a few short years we have built a loyal following of riders who swear by our products. This is both extremely motivating and humbling. We are excited to continue driving the movement away from petroleum-based products in the outdoor industry.
Is there anything else you'd like us to know?
Just try our products, we know you'll love them. And, if you have any questions, just give us a call - (970) 340 - 8604 or visit us www.mountainflow.com. We are always stoked to talk shop.